Android Market Gears Up for Battle

Google’s Android Market is seeing some changes in the final hours before the phone’s debut. Many of the apps that had been added to the storefront disappeared this week, and a handful of big-name offerings popped up in their places. Imeem, Shazam and MySpace are among the services with applications now available.

The first Android-powered phone, T-Mobile’s G1, is set to launch Wednesday. The phone’s seen plenty of hype and speculation leading up to its release, and app availability is certainly an area the industry’s been watching. Google has spent much time touting the open and unmoderated nature of its app distribution system — so why, then, did the Android Market experience such a sudden shift?

Change Explained

The reason, Google says, is simple: The Market isn’t actually open yet. The user-controlled concept originally presented will go into place when the phone, and thus the Market, become ready for public use. The programs that had been posted were only for early release handsets provided for demonstration purposes.

“The demo devices give an early version of the Market,” Google spokesperson Morgan Magilligan told LinuxInsider. “We need to be sure that a few of the third-party apps are final for consumer use in the Android Market when the T-Mobile G1 officially launches.”

Engineers are now replacing those “preview versions” with final versions of the apps, Magilligan explained — and after Wednesday, Google will step back and implement its hands-off approach. Developers will be able to upload at will, and users will control the apps’ placement through a YouTube-style ranking system.

Imeem Exclusive

While numerous previously posted preview versions are — at least for the moment — unavailable, some big name services now have their final apps ready to roll.

Music streaming startup Imeem has created its first-ever mobile application for Android and has it posted in the Market for use. The system, notably not yet offered for the iPhone, lets users access their Web-based Imeem accounts to listen to music. The app allows for the creation of custom radio stations, as well as the purchasing of songs from Amazon.com.

Shazam Service

Shazam also has its own music-based program ramped up for Android use. The app — which has been a big hit on the iPhone — boasts the ability to recognize songs playing in the environment. You can hold the phone up to a speaker and, within seconds, Shazam will identify the artist, title, and album.

The Android version will then present the option to download the track from Amazon.com (compared to the iPhone’s iTunes download option). It’ll also offer an option to connect to the artist’s MySpace page and add him as a friend.

MySpace App

MySpace itself is getting in on the Android action. The social network has its app on the Market for the G1’s first users to snag. In addition to the Shazam integration, the MySpace app will let users navigate through the site’s primary functions. You’ll be able to pull up friends’ profiles, leave comments, send messages, and edit and upload photos.

Both the amount and the quality of applications made available for Android are expected to play a strong role in the platform’s success — not only on the G1 device, but also on future handsets set to be released over the coming months. Even now, it’s hard to predict what kind of developments could come once the release happens and developers gauge the benefits of getting on board.

“That’s something you never really know until the device ships,” Derek Kerton, principal analyst of The Kerton Group, told LinuxInsider. “What matters is how many developers like it,” he said.

Ultimately, Android’s promise of an open approach to app development and distribution may prove to be its most powerful weapon of all in the inevitable iPhone comparison.

“The business people might look at the model and say, ‘Hey, that’s the model we like a lot better. We can sell this application on our own Web site … in a very open way,'” Kerton noted.

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